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I stumbled upon a amazon review for Duncan Campbell's Osprey book on Mons Graupius that claims Roman sources tells 50000 Romans were killed in Severus' Caledonian campaign. What exactly are these sources? I just find it extremely difficult to believe that 15% of the whole Roman army was destroyed in a single campaign. Was there even 50000 men involved in it?
Quote:I stumbled upon a amazon review for Duncan Campbell's Osprey book on Mons Graupius that claims Roman sources tells 50000 Romans were killed in Severus' Caledonian campaign. What exactly are these sources?
The source is Cassius Dio 77.13.2:
Quote:The enemy purposely put sheep and cattle in front of the soldiers for them to seize, in order that they might be lured on still further until they were worn out; for in fact the water caused great suffering to the Romans, and when they became scattered, they would be attacked. Then, unable to walk, they would be slain by their own men, in order to avoid capture, so that a full fifty thousand died.
In Roman numerals, L means 50 (a plausible number) and L with a line above it means 50.000. A very simple writing error in Dio's manuscript explains it all. Alternatively, if he wrote 45 in Greek numerals (???), someone may have read that as five myriads.
So the number 50,000 was a "typo" in the original? And the actual number, assumedly, should have been 50?
Quote:So the number 50,000 was a "typo" in the original? And the actual number, assumedly, should have been 50?
I think that that is the most plausible explanation. Dio is no fool. He has commanded a legion (III Augusta), he knows what he's doing. I think that the Greek error is more plausible: after he wrote 45, a Byzantine copyist converted it into 50.000. If Dio had seen a Latin typo, he would have corrected it himself.
It makes you wonder how many mistakes are in those ancient sources.
Quote:It makes you wonder how many mistakes are in those ancient sources.
Personally, I think that, as a rule of the thumb, you can trust nothing if it is in only one source. Testis unus testis nullus is a juridical principle, but is also relevant for historians.
I though that Severus' Caledonian War was considered a success? A legion worth of causualities sounds very steep to me :?
Quote:I think that the Greek error is more plausible: after he wrote 45, a Byzantine copyist converted it into 50.000. If Dio had seen a Latin typo, he would have corrected it himself.

Dio originally wrote in Greek, I think. It's a reasonable explanation, but still raises problems - while fifty thousand casualties is clearly absurd, a bare fifty (or even 45) in what appears to have been a repeated situation seems a bit low to rate mention in what is otherwise a pretty sparing account. Severus' army probably numbered several tens of thousands, after all. Could there be an opening for a different misreading of the Greek? Maybe Dio wrote something vague along the lines of 'many myriads' or 'several times fifty'?

- Nathan
Quote:
Epictetus:2v3uf0nz Wrote:It makes you wonder how many mistakes are in those ancient sources.
Personally, I think that, as a rule of the thumb, you can trust nothing if it is in only one source. Testis unus testis nullus is a juridical principle, but is also relevant for historians.

When it is remembered that all we have that has come down to us has been copied countless times - not to mention having been 'censored' by countless Church Officials - our 'history' is simply what the Holy Roman Church has permitted to survive, and sanctioned the repeated copying of.... e.g. Pope Gregory the Great (540-604) decided the works of Cicero should be suppressed, and also destroyed every copy of the works of the historian Livy that he could find - thus today, we only have a quarter of Livy's"Ab Urbe Condita"( 'History of Rome from the founding of the city'), that has survived in parts in a mere dozen or so manuscripts that managed to escape Gregory.......and then of course, despite the devotion of monks etc, the copying work was often unfinished, so we have parts of many books, but not too many complete ones, add to which insects and other pests eating holes in manuscripts..... and it is a wonder we have anything at all ! And, as Jona has said, there is no guarantee a single source is truthfully written, or accurately copied - works like the surviving bits of Livy often vary in their manuscripts........ Sad (
Quote:
Jona Lendering:3qn5ow1b Wrote:
Epictetus:3qn5ow1b Wrote:It makes you wonder how many mistakes are in those ancient sources.
Personally, I think that, as a rule of the thumb, you can trust nothing if it is in only one source. Testis unus testis nullus is a juridical principle, but is also relevant for historians.

When it is remembered that all we have that has come down to us has been copied countless times - not to mention having been 'censored' by countless Church Officials - our 'history' is simply what the Holy Roman Church has permitted to survive, and sanctioned the repeated copying of.... e.g. Pope Gregory the Great (540-604) decided the works of Cicero should be suppressed, and also destroyed every copy of the works of the historian Livy that he could find - thus today, we only have a quarter of Livy's"Ab Urbe Condita"( 'History of Rome from the founding of the city'), that has survived in parts in a mere dozen or so manuscripts that managed to escape Gregory.......and then of course, despite the devotion of monks etc, the copying work was often unfinished, so we have parts of many books, but not too many complete ones, add to which insects and other pests eating holes in manuscripts..... and it is a wonder we have anything at all ! And, as Jona has said, there is no guarantee a single source is truthfully written, or accurately copied - works like the surviving bits of Livy often vary in their manuscripts........ Sad (


Sad but true. Despite having no "spiritual stake" in the matter myself, I often think the Catholic Church gets a bad rap over things like book burning and such as a major loss of our knowledge of ancient works. The ravages of time itself are as often as not more to blame for our loss of knowledge than anything done by individual popes; the very nature of the ancient papyri themselves lends them to be destroyed just from their mere regular use after only a century or maybe two. That said, it would be blind and foolhardy to claim that individual "Church Fathers" never had a hand in the destruction of ancient texts.
A long chain of textual transmission needs only one break (big fire, big flood, book burning, change of religion, even a change of taste) to be gone forever, especially back when book were only copied by hand. Today we are buried in books; we don't realize what rare and precious things they were 500 let alone 1500 years ago.
Quote:A long chain of textual transmission needs only one break (big fire, big flood, book burning, change of religion, even a change of taste) to be gone forever, especially back when book were only copied by hand.
That's still true. All only copies of Cicero's De Officiis contain the same omission. Someone has made a mistake, everyone has copied it, and no one seems to have noticed.

More here.
Quote:In Roman numerals, L means 50 (a plausible number) and L with a line above it means 50.000. A very simple writing error in Dio's manuscript explains it all. Alternatively, if he wrote 45 in Greek numerals (???), someone may have read that as five myriads.

A point in question ... 50.000 is this not fifty to three decimal places ... was the . meant to be a , thus giving 50,000?

See how easy it is to confuse us :roll:
Quote: point in question ... 50.000 is this not fifty to three decimal places ... was the . meant to be a , thus giving 50,000?

See how easy it is to confuse us :roll:
Yup, should have been a , instead of a . . I fell back to the typographical conventions of the old continent.

It reminds me of that Mars probe that went missing because they forgot to convert meters to yards,
I have to worry about that every day. :mrgreen: In the past I've had a couple cross-Atlantic investment deals delayed because of that confusion. Even now my equity trading platform displays everything US-style (€ 1,000.00) but I have to enter orders Continental-style (€ 1.000,00).

Sorry. Going off topic.